ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences
An accident has been defined as:15 an unexpected, unplanned occurrence which may involve injury'. The effects of accidents can be considerable16 (see TABLE 2)
In a number of countries there is a legal requirement for the development and implementation of a workplace accident prevention policy.17 In general terms such a policy should incorporate the following:
Who should conduct inspections?
Every work area is different with different functions and procedures each with its own inherent hazards. The intrinsic nature of the laboratory will to a large degree dictate how frequently inspections are required and to some extent who should conduct the inspection. However in preparing a policy consider the following:
What should be inspected?
This will be determined largely by the nature of the laboratory, but consider the following:
Those conducting the inspection of a laboratory or workplace require an intimate knowledge and understanding of the following:
Develop a form for recording your observations. This serves as a valuable reference source and can be used for safety reviews. A sample Workplace Inspection Record form is given in Fig 1.
Review or follow-up
It is important to consider carefully the findings of an inspection and, where indicated, institute corrective action. In particular, the responsible supervisor should be made aware of those hazards which pose an immediate danger so that action is taken quickly. Ultimately, identified hazards should be eliminated. A review of data collected from several inspections is useful in identifying trends, and can indicate, for example:
Accident investigation reports
All occurrences which fulfil the definition of an accident should be detailed in a written report. As well as providing a record of specific incidents these reports can be analysed during any review to establish trends. An example of an Accident Investigation Report is given in Fig 2.
Group discussion can be a valuable means of
developing a positive awareness towards occupational safety and
health. Checklists are a useful aid to supervisors when leading
group discussions on safety issues. Occupational health and safety
should become a regular agenda item for every Departmental meeting
to provide for dissemination of safety information.
It might only take one accident!